Home Politics Is Multiculturalism dead or is Cameron turning into a Fascist?

Is Multiculturalism dead or is Cameron turning into a Fascist?

by Barry
English Defence League march in Newcastle

Camerons new message? - Image via Wikipedia

David Cameron has made a controversial speech in Germany, declaring that Multiculturalism has failed, but is he right? Or is he just sympathising with the English Defence League, who had a rally on the same day.

This is a really important statement, not only for Cameron and the Government, but for everybody in the UK.  He made the statement at a Security Conference in Munich, so has declared this on the World Stage and in effect has set how we are now to be viewed by everyone in terms of racial tolerance.

Lets face it, what has prompted the stance is Muslim Radicalism which has brought us a new understanding of Fanaticism with Suicide bombers and a new type of terrorism.

Does the actions of the few mean that multiculturalism has failed?  Already the government has started withdrawing funding from suspect muslim organisations.

I believe that in essence, what he is wanting is to say rather than hope we all get on, is to say that everyone has to be British.   He is using phrases like “Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism,”

Muscular Liberalism?  What on earth is that?  Is it forcing them to be British by punching it into them?  I remember that type of politics from the school yard, and it used to hurt!

So what is this British Idyl?  What is it that we want everyone to be?  That is not a blase question, when our favourite national dish is Chicken Tikka Massala, our houses look like Ikea Showrooms and we drive Japanese, European and American Cars.

We do need to tackle the Muslim Extremist, but this is the wrong approach.  I do not think that Multiculturalism has failed, I think we have got a greater, richer country for it.  we do have immigration issues, particularly with illegal entrants and deporting criminals.  But it is an important distinction between that and people who have come into the country and contribute to our way of life.

In our British history, we should remember that we have been tackling extremism on our mainland for many many years (a long time before America had the problem) and yet have never said that Irish folks have not integrated.  Look at the peace process there, it took a lot of hard work, but it has largely worked.

I think I see what Cameron is trying to say and what he wants, this is just a ridiculous way to go around it?  It just makes him sound like a Fascist and playing into the Right wing of the EDL and the BNP.

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Eddie February 7, 2011 - 9:45 am

Even your own party dont agree with you

“A senior ally of Ed Miliband who branded David Cameron a far-Right ‘propagandist’ for criticising multiculturalism was left isolated by Labour colleagues yesterday.
They refused to back Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan after his extraordinary attack on the Prime Minister’s speech in which he pledged to crack down on Muslim groups that sympathise with Islamic extremists and oppose British values.
Mr Khan accused Mr Cameron of ‘writing propaganda’ for the far-Right English Defence League, an anti-Islamist group linked to the BNP. He provoked fury within Government, with Tory Party Chairman Baroness Warsi demanding an apology from Mr Khan over the ‘outrageous and irresponsible’ smear.
Senior figures within Labour, which is desperate not to be seen as out of touch with the public mood on the need to tackle Islamic extremists, distanced themselves from Mr Khan.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said: ‘It is for Sadiq to explain the context in which he made those remarks.’

Joe K February 7, 2011 - 10:58 am

I’ve never claimed to be infallible, and I once thought ‘multiculturalism’ meant nothing more than having lots of different cultures rubbing along together, peacefully, and perhaps learning from each other. I now understand that it means separation of cultures, which is a bad idea. I’ve said before that if everyone born in England could think of themselves as English, as I have learned to do, despite having Irish parents, things would be better, but too many put their religion over their notional nationality.

bazkirby February 7, 2011 - 12:34 pm

My issue here isn’t with the idea that we need to crack down on Muslim Terrorists, but more on the approach. There is so much nuance in detail that the overll message is very right wing, just look at the way it is being reported.

But I want to go deeper than that, I want to know what is it tha we want people to be? What is British? Or what was british that we want to go back to?

I have to agree with Joe, that my understanding of multiculturalism ia about having lots of different cultures peacefully getting along and learning from each other.

I think the Prime Minsister should ahve gone for less “shaock tactics” and a moer strategis approach which didn;t look quite so secularist.

James February 8, 2011 - 1:32 am

DC’s issue is with state multiculturalism and radicalism. What he fails to do is clearly define what British values are. I accept that a security forum in Munich is not the forum for this but DC was part of a large ‘national conversation’ pre-election.

When you start to probe, however, you discover that British values are human values so it is really quite a vacuous term that politicians really cannot – and perhaps should not – grasp. Billy Connolly does a great sketch on values and argues that this just f***s everything up! Maybe he’s right…

When you consider how well our wealthy tax-payer funded bankers are treated, you soon realise that we live in a place where people (regardless of their national, ethnic and cultural identity) possess very different values. Is the under-performing but well remunerated banker any more or less British than the rest of us? And what of those MP’s who have milked their expenses or off-shored their tax revenues – what are their values and should we share them?

When we talk of multiculturalism in Britain, we generally look back two generations and the post WWII boom. However, we live now in a more globalised world and the debate needs to move on.

TNC’s demand fluid movement of people, goods and capital across national borders. The SEM was formed by EU members in 1992 and was fully embraced by Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government.

But where does this leave individual communities where there has been previous little experience of immigration or emigration? This is the culture shock that many people witness at close quarters. When we start to see rising unemployment and other social problems, the radicals become energised and start to gain a foothold. This was very much in evidence in England’s mill towns but even a world city like London is not completely immune. What concerns me now – in the context of PS cuts – is that the radicals gain some sort of respectability within wider society. This concern is shared by Baroness Warsi who has a deeper understanding of multiculturalism than her boss.

As someone who is quite well predisposed to multiculturalism, it is strange to discover that I have something in common with the EDL leader, Mr Lennon. Another Lutonian who in the words of the late and great Spike Milligan “descended from a green parachute”. What he and much of the media have failed to register is that multiculturalism is Luton’s single biggest achievement. In fact, what is failing in Luton is radicalism and this is where I and DC part company. The Stockholm bomber (of Iraqi parentage) was rejected by his moslem peers, which I suspect contributed, in part, to his suicidal motives. The fact that the 7/7 bombers set off from Luton rail station says more about its excellent transport links with London, as opposed to its ‘links’ with Islamic fundamentalism.

In the final analysis, community cohesion matters very little to establishment politicians. At the crux of this debate is globalisation and the impact it has on the earth and its peoples. Governments are generally reluctant or unable to take on the TNC’s so the job of politicians is to deliver sound bytes to journalists so that they appear to be on side of ‘the people’. This allows individual nations to compete in Capitalism’s race to the bottom.

I do think it is premature for western governments to consign multiculturalism to trash. If we listen to what climate science is telling us about our eco system, we can expect to see many more environmental refugees as the century progresses. The influx of immigrants that helped to grow the economy during the boom will pale by comparison. Time is running out for our generation. On a more positive note, I think it is possible for melting pots to flourish. Toronto, Chicago and Vancouver provide modern, dynamic and progressive examples and we can all learn something from these places.

From a British/Irish perspective, I think it is important to register that it can take some generations for integration (and healing) to establish itself. In the meantime, the focus should be on what unites us, rather than what separates us. Perhaps human values are easier to define than what The Times described today in its Editorial as “quintessential British values”. In a more globalised world, it may be easier to focus on shared human values than national values that may have been overtaken my secular modernity.
I think it is helpful to acknowledge that these islands have had a multi-cultural and multi-national character for many centuries. This long precedes the immigration that characterizes Britain’s emergence as an industrial powerhouse. Securing a better understanding of our own histories will help make us more receptive to newcomers.

The late Sir Bernard Crick possessed some very powerful insights about British identity. The United Kingdom is a legal and political entity that is not unlike the European Union. Within these two unions are nations with peoples who proudly hold their own national and cultural identities. Crick argued that Britishness was often presented in the dominant English narrative. Something that irks the Celts and may go some way to explaining why the celtic nations are more comfortable with the European project. When we look at recent events, the German, French and other European governments have taken a far more robust approach in relation to the banks. This returns me to an earlier point about MP’s. Are ‘our’ politicians serving British interests, national interests, or their own?

The current debate about multiculturalism is welcome and I hope it will help to shine some light on global issues which increasingly have a very profound affect on our daily lives.

Eddie February 8, 2011 - 9:18 am

When we talk of multiculturalism in Britain we think about the damage that labour did to our own culture and to fairness. We think about Christmas being banned in case it upsets the muslims or the Hindus.

Being English was regarded as inferior, even to the extent that on many council forms you could sign to being British, Welsh or Scottish, but not to being English.

It was , and still is a hideous concept that should be consigned to the dustbin. Try talking about multiculturalism in France, Iran, etc. There is nothing at all wrong in being proud of our own culture ( and English is different to Scottish ). Part of English culture was always to welcome different people together with their culture, but not at the expense of our own.

trollhunterx February 8, 2011 - 9:37 am

That’s quite a mouthful for a blog comment, James, but what are ‘TNCs’? (I’ll realise as soon as I hit ‘Post Comment’)

Don’t talk to me about ‘community cohesion’, the only phrase brandished with less sincerity is ‘fit for purpose’. When I hear those words, I reach for my cattle prod…

(logged in now, so ‘trollhunterx’)

Eddie February 8, 2011 - 9:41 am

Lord Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth says in the Times that multiculturalism was intended to create a more tolerant society, one in which everyone, regardless of colour, creed or culture, felt at home. But, he says, multiculturalism’s message is “there is no need to integrate”.

He distinguishes between tolerance and multiculturalism – using the Netherlands as an example of a tolerant, rather than multicultural, society.

Additionally, he says the current meaning of multiculturalism is part of the wider European phenomenon of moral relativism and talks of multiculturalism as dissolving national identity, shared values and collective identity which “makes it impossible for groups to integrate because there is nothing to integrate into”.

bazkirby February 10, 2011 - 6:58 am

Did anyone listen to the Moral Maze on Radio 4 – In the advert for it, they raised exactly the same issues that I described above.

Eddie February 10, 2011 - 9:21 am

This is the main point to ponder:
current meaning of multiculturalism is part of the wider European phenomenon of moral relativism and talks of multiculturalism as dissolving national identity, shared values and collective identity which “makes it impossible for groups to integrate because there is nothing to integrate into”.

trollhunterx February 10, 2011 - 10:46 am

The Moral Maze was worth listening to just for the ding-dong between Kenan Malik (ex of ‘Living Marxism’) and second guest Douglas Murray (whose views might interest Eddie, if he hasn’t listened to it yet… or is that a quote from the programme?).


Shame Melanie Philips wasn’t on…

bazkirby February 10, 2011 - 11:42 am

So yes, Multiculturism, in its present definition, is dead and by the fact that everyone has a seperate understanding as to what it means, and therefoer confused everyone, then maybe good riddance. So the next step is to define what we do want. How to we get all the advantages of many different cultures living in close proximity, yet retain Core British Values.

Maybe the First step is to really look at what the Core British Values are?

trollhunterx February 10, 2011 - 12:27 pm

I’m very glad you asked me that question, Barry 🙂

One of the first steps would be addressing the elephant in the living room (‘paging Dr Dolittle!’). ‘Shariah law’ is a bit of a misnomer, apparently, because it incorporates the word ‘law’, or ‘Shariah’ might even mean ‘law’ in Arabic. It’s like ‘PIN number’.

But however it should be described, the vocal minority of Muslims demanding (or predicting) that Britain will become a Shariah state, should be asked if this would mean that initiatives that are currently not paid for by the state (at least directly), like segregated swimming sessions, would now be funded directly out of the public coffers? The ramifications for this on the current economy would make unification of our councils look like a cakewalk, so could some leading Muslims come out and say it’s a pipedream? Then we could have an honest debate about the role of religion, any religion, in this country.

trollhunterx February 10, 2011 - 12:30 pm

My bad, I see now that Eddie’s quotes was of Lord Sachs. TMM is worth a listen, as I said.

James February 13, 2011 - 8:02 am

Although I will be happy to see an end to some aspects of state multiculturalism, I do not think we can say that multiculturalism, per se, is dead, for two key reasons:

(1) Captitalism depends on the free movement of goods, PEOPLE, information and services. Are we seeking to undermine global capitalism and the sort of multiculturalism that trans national corporations (TNC’s) depend on?

(2) The pursuit of world peace is a noble concept, yet even the greatest of minds have been unable to resolve conflicts around the world. Are we suggesting that our collective failure to understand and resolve conflict at home and abroad means we simply abandon it?

In the current political context, we have a government that has yet been able to articulate to us and themselves what the “big society” is. So should we expect the same government to form sound bytes from multiculturalism? One nation conservatism has never fully embraced Britain’s multicultural nature. The speech in Munich merely reinforces a long held belief. It is not “news”.

The point made in (2) is important as our attitudes to multiculturalism at home also affect our approach to foreign relations. Indeed, we can not win “hearts and minds” if we disengage from multiculturalism – the fact that difference is real should be both acknowledged and respected.
State multiculturalism fails when it is tokenistic and built on the hollow concept of political correctness. From my parents perspective, the view was (back in the 1970’s and 80’s) that certain immigrant groups benefitted more than others. If DC eradicates this form of unfairness, then he has my support. Our Chief Rabbi does not grasp this fact in his very eloquent prose.

What is perplexing me now is the 62% cut in the Refugee Council grant which will affect, amongst other things, its capacity to fund ESOL training. We all agree that failure to learn English is one of (state) multiculturalism’s failures. So taking an axe to this grant will make it harder for refugees and other immigrants to integrate into English speaking societies in the United Kingdom. If this particular grant is used to increase the comprehension of English and by extension, “the English”, then how can we say that state multiculturalism is “all bad”?

On the wider subject of values, I tend to think this is best left to the real “big society”. Although genuine secularism and pluralism is positive, it can sometimes leave a moral void (or moral maze if you will) in the search for shared values. Commentators frequently cite “tolerance” as a core British value. I would like to see this replaced with “respect”. Tolerance can take the form of grudging acceptance and I believe this feeds political correctness (PC). This has helped to create the faux multiculturalism that the State can no longer afford to subsidise.

trollhunterx February 14, 2011 - 12:31 pm

Again, James, what are ‘TNCs’ (no, I haven’t figured it out yet)?

James February 14, 2011 - 9:19 pm

Joe, TNC=trans national corporations. Picked up the term from the Oxford University Press’ Very Short Introduction (VSI) series, specifically the title “Globalisation”. If you Google “TNC’s” your first result will be a wiki on Multinationals. With hindsight, an interesting read in the context of the Munich conference which also covered cyber warfare. TNC’s are more adroit at transcending jurisdictions than us mere mortals…


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